Creative spirit

Creative spirit

French artist Julien Marinetti, a “concrete dreamer” discusses his work, his influences and his Ferraris

Words: Claudia Barbieri

Julien Marinetti started painting when he was four and was producing serious work by the age of seven, on dishcloths filched from his mother’s kitchen. His breakthrough came in 2004, when he placed a poly-chromed sculpture of a bulldog with a Paris dealer, who sold it, to his amazement, the next day. More followed and Doggy John, Manga-cute and inscrutable, went viral. He now sells worldwide, with strong followings in Korea and China.

French artist Julien Marinetti with his F12berlinetta <em>Photo: Nick Wilson</em>
French artist Julien Marinetti with his F12berlinetta Photo: Nick Wilson

The Official Ferrari Magazine: You’ve described your work as neocubism. What did you mean by that?

Julien Marinetti: Cubism started with Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in late 1907 and continued almost all through Picasso’s life, a perpetual renewal of cubism. There were three cubisms – analytical, synthetic and symbolic, a sort of systematic purification of cubism. One thing is sure, all this intellectual welter has fed into the emergence of my art. It’s clear. But in the same way, I have a Ferrari: when you see the first Ferraris of the 1950s, if you compare them with mine it’s absurd, there’s no comparison possible, and yet systematically there’s a common thread, and you feel the same handwriting, the same imprint. Like, if I gave you Voltaire to read and said it was Diderot, you’d know it was Voltaire. Racine and de Bruyère, or La Fontaine and Boileau. What I’m trying to say is, you always know immediately when you’re looking at a Marinetti, or a Ferrari.

The artist in the studio surrounded by works in progress <em>Photo: Nick Wilson</em>
The artist in the studio surrounded by works in progress Photo: Nick Wilson

TOFM: What makes your work different?

JM: What absolutely governs all my work, all my interior life, can be summed up in an axiom, and that axiom – it’s a double axiom – is that firstly an artist must have savoir faire, expertise; and secondly a creative spirit, what you might call a poet’s spirit. Like Pininfarina, when he made a car body, nothing dictated it to him, he worked in a subconscious state of perfect creativity. You need both. If you only have the technique, you’re just an artisan; and if you have only the spirit, you’re a dreamer. Everyone meets people who have ideas and never put them down on paper. They’re thinkers, dreamers, idlers. Idlers is perhaps a pejorative description, but anyway I’m not a dreamer. I’m a concrete dreamer. I’m into concretisation. I sell works of art, not decorations. The difference is, a work of art imposes itself on its space, a decoration adapts itself to the space. I never try to please. On the other hand, I respect my collectors. It’s far harder to be a collector than an artist, because the true collector engages part of his fortune, of his brain, his soul, and takes the risk of living with it every day.

TOFM: If a collector wants to resell one of your works, will he get his money back?

JM: All my works resell for more than I sell them for. And that’s without false pricing – you know the art market game of using the auction houses, Christie’s or Sotheby’s or Artcurial, to artificially inflate an artist’s price. I refuse to play that game, and still my works sell.

Marinetti owns a F12berlinetta and a classic 1978 Ferrari 308 GT4 <em>Photo: Nick Wilson</em>
Marinetti owns a F12berlinetta and a classic 1978 Ferrari 308 GT4 Photo: Nick Wilson

TOFM: How long have you had your Ferrari?

JM: A year and a half. It’s an F12berlinetta. I use it morning and evening. Actually, I have two Ferraris. The first I bought second-hand. It’s a 1978 vintage 308 GT4. When I bought it I felt ill for two months afterwards. I didn’t use it, because I was ashamed of investing so much money. Then I said, it’s not a just a question of giving myself a treat. It’s a question of having the right to buy a masterpiece. You need to be very mature to buy a masterpiece. Now I’ve become a collector, of cars and artworks too.